Veteran F1 commentator Murray Walker has added his voice to the debate over the sport's decision to award the UK television contract to Sky Sports
, claiming that it can only be bad news for hardcore fans.
Writing in the Daily Mail
newspaper, Walker added that he also feared for the sport itself, with the expected drop in viewing figures likely to have a knock-on effect on the teams.
The announcement that subscription-based Sky Sports
would carry live coverage of every round from 2012 came on the opening day of the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, leaving fans - and some members of the current BBC
team - stunned and angry. The 'free to air' station will continue to show F1 next season, but will only have half the races live, with the rest forming a highlights package.
Fans have reacted angrily on internet forums, with more than one campaign targeting both the BBC
and F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone in an effort to get the decision reversed, and Walker admits to sharing their concerns.
"The tragedy of it is that the BBC
, on a free-to-air basis, are doing an absolutely fabulous job and are not only providing the best F1 coverage that Britain has ever had, but are also providing the best coverage in the world in my view," he wrote, "My overriding reaction is one of great sympathy for the people who can't afford Sky
or don't have Sky
for whatever reason, because they are going to be denied 50 per cent of the races."
Walker said that he feared for the quality of the 'free to air' coverage once the new deals come into play, especially with the cost of the BBC
's programming having been at the root of the problem in the first place.
"It all comes down to money," the octogenarian admitted, "The BBC
has lost F1 before. They lost it in my time and it went to ITV
and they did a better job for F1 then than the BBC
had been doing. But, now, the BBC
is doing a better job than ITV
"There is a problem in that the BBC
are only going to be doing half the races now and they will inevitably spend less money on them. Hypothetically, their coverage will not be as good, which is a great pity."
It is not only the fans and his fellow broadcasters at the BBC
that Walker is worried about, however, with the sport in general also in danger of suffering from the deal to allow a 'pay per view' channel to gain a foothold.